Sunday Reading: October 1, 2023

In Fresno, Sikhs and Oaxacans unite to pass caste discrimination ban

This week, Fresno became the first city in California to ban discrimination based on caste or Indigenous heritage; the state senate passed a similar bill, which is awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature. The bill protects South Asian immigrants from the caste discrimination imported to the US by the upper caste professional diaspora, and also applies to indigenous Mexican immigrants. The movement against caste based oppression has gained ground here in the US, where it can be safer to advocate for as opposed to in India, where the Modi government has bolstered widespread fascist violence and retribution for political activists.

The threats to freedom being borne by Indians who aren't allied with the Hindu nationalist rightwing are a threat to those outside India's borders, too. Sikh activists in California were visited by the FBI recently, who warned them that their lives could be in danger after a prominent Sikh activist in Canada was killed; the Canadian government alleges they have evidence linking the murder to the Indian state. This tension highlights the hypocrisy of the US government in courting India as a counter measure to Chinese power. Speaking to journalist Rowaida Abdelaziz, Karam Singh, the co-founder of the California Sikh Youth Alliance told HuffPost, "Just because the United States has a strategy against China, doesn’t mean that Indian minorities are cannon fodder."

A recent Guardian piece looks at South Korea’s fraudulent adoption industry, fueled by a white western demand for infant adoptees. Since the end of the Korean War, “about 200,000 South Korean children have been adopted abroad.” Agencies like Holt Children Services have a decades-long track record of falsifying background information; employees frequently listed children as orphans when their parents were still alive.

In “Mommie Dearest,” which TNI published in 2019, Hiji Nam spoke to scholar Hosu Kim about the historical ties between South Korea’s adoption industry and the US, which is the “the largest receiving nation of Korean adoptees.” In addition to the familiar American white savior myths, Nam argues that “South Korea’s modern nation-state has deployed the biopolitics of transnational adoption to effect normalized, everyday, gendered violence against working-class, poor, single mothers in South Korea.” Nam also analyzes the specific demand for Korean infants via “the origins of 'cute' Asian aesthetics—Hello Kitty or K-pop camp, for instance, and Asian babies as a trope of viral cuteness.”

In “Baby Heists” (2022), Andrew Lee zooms out, looking at how transnational adoption functions as a cover for imperial extraction and war. “The deepest wish of the modern state is to forge precisely the sort of population which might perfectly support it.” Actually doing this, however, is a different story. The US churns out pro-assimilation rhetoric and installs racist immigration quotas, “and sometimes it works, and model citizens are manufactured. Other times, the people who emerge are just traumatized versions of those who entered.”

What increases the national ROI? Getting access to your future national subjects as young as possible. This is where adoption comes in. "To build the machine is the dream of each contemporary state. To feed it the children of the world is the privilege of empire. The formal phase of the War on Terror died with images of birth: Afghan babies passed over the Kabul airport’s razor-wire fence, wrapped in U.S. Army jackets in the bowels of lumbering C-17s. The Pentagon sent journalists photos of soldiers tenderly cradling swaddled babies. The war, we were shown, was humanitarian after all. Perhaps 200,000 did not die in vain." As with the American wars in East Asia, we're pushed to believe that "were it not for U.S. ground forces, those parents would have had nobody to pass their children to."

This month, “At the Tip of the Javelin” by Mike Gallagher considers the TERF turn in track, asking why such a niche American sport has become such a rightwing lightning rod. “There is, increasingly, a singular focus on the value of victory,” Gallagher writes. “In a sport like track and field, where individual achievement is the sole vehicle to winning and economic security, this creates a particularly dangerous route through which anti-trans rhetoric can be spread.”

In “Alienated Nerds,” OK Fox and Charlie Markbreiter look at the collapse of NFTs by arguing that Bored Apes et al were always just gentrified fandom. This shifts into a an analysis of how digital culture facilitates to IRL-gentrification, as exemplified by neighborhoods like Williamsburg. “NYC has lost the ability to have public improvements without further entrenching its relationship to big tech,” Fox writes, a comment which feels especially timely in light of the city-wide floods which hit NYC this week.

America's longest serving female senator died this week. In lieu of an obituary, here's a listicle.

Eight Times Diane Feinstein Demonstrated Zero Fear of Karma

  1. Diane Feinstein became the mayor of San Francisco in 1978, after the assassinations of then-Mayor George Moscone and the city Supervisor, Harvey Milk. The murders were committed by a former cop: the conservative Supervisor Dan White who Moscone refused to reappoint to the Board of Supervisors. White was convicted on a lesser charge of manslaughter, rather than murder, which inspired riots across the city; 106 cops and forty-four civilians were injured. While San Francisco's residents praised police chief Charles Gain's restraint in responding to the riots, the police were not pleased, and issued a vote of no confidence. Among Feinstein's first acts as mayor were calling for the resignation of police chief Gain, stating, "His flaw, if it is such, is in not getting the kind of respect that is necessary from the rank and file and commanding officers of the force.”
  2. In her time as Mayor, Feinstein vetoed: health insurance benefits to cohabitating gay couples, rent control, and a labor contract that would have raised the wages of white women and minority group members.
  3. As Senator, she was the chair of the intelligence committee and had access to data confirming the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. She would nonetheless vote for––and be a vocal proponent of––the invasion that would go on to destroy and destabilize multiple nations across the next decade. When questioned about her pro war views, Feinstein told PBS: "We are a nation that doesn't hit first generally. Except, in this case, I think a sleeping giant was awakened, and I think there was this need in this body politic so to speak to hit back even though there was no connection directly to 9/11 or directly to al-Qaida."
  4. Feinstein was married to billionaire defense contractor Richard Blum. He was a millionaire before they married.
  5. Her husband's private equity firm also managed $500 million in assets, the bulk of which came from CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm. The foreclosures of the 2008 financial crisis were a boon to Blum’s fortune.
  6. Blum was an ardent supporter of Feinstein's political career. In 2015, he threatened the University of California school system with retaliation unless they imposed harsh penalties on student supporters of Palestine. Blum stated that "his wife … would interfere and make trouble if the Regents didn’t commit to punish people for prohibited speech." At the time, the University of California board of regents, which covers ten schools, were attempting to formally ban criticism of Israel.
  7. In 2019, Diane Feinsteins mocked and rebuffed children for asking her to consider the urgency of addressing climate change.
  8. Diane Feinstein commuted to work on a 62 million dollar G650 private jet. 

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